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1.  Transforming Growth Factor-β Receptor-3 Is Associated with Pulmonary Emphysema 
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous syndrome, including emphysema and airway disease. Phenotypes defined on the basis of chest computed tomography (CT) may decrease disease heterogeneity and aid in the identification of candidate genes for COPD subtypes. To identify these genes, we performed genome-wide linkage analysis in extended pedigrees from the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study, stratified by emphysema status (defined by chest CT scans) of the probands, followed by genetic association analysis of positional candidate genes. A region on chromosome 1p showed strong evidence of linkage to lung function traits in families of emphysema-predominant probands in the stratified analysis (LOD score = 2.99 in families of emphysema-predominant probands versus 1.98 in all families). Association analysis in 949 individuals from 127 early-onset COPD pedigrees revealed association for COPD-related traits with an intronic single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in transforming growth factor-β receptor-3 (TGFBR3) (P = 0.005). This SNP was significantly associated with COPD affection status comparing 389 cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial to 472 control smokers (P = 0.04), and with FEV1 (P = 0.004) and CT emphysema (P = 0.05) in 3,117 subjects from the International COPD Genetics Network. Gene-level replication of association with lung function was seen in 427 patients with COPD from the Lung Health Study. In conclusion, stratified linkage analysis followed by association testing identified TGFBR3 (betaglycan) as a potential susceptibility gene for COPD. Published human microarray and murine linkage studies have also demonstrated the importance of TGFBR3 in emphysema and lung function, and our group and others have previously found association of COPD-related traits with TGFB1, a ligand for TGFBR3.
PMCID: PMC2742752  PMID: 19131638
betaglycan; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; computed tomography; linkage; single nucleotide polymorphism
2.  Genetic Determinants of Emphysema Distribution in the National Emphysema Treatment Trial 
Rationale: Computed tomography (CT) scanning of the lung may reduce phenotypic heterogeneity in defining subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and allow identification of genetic determinants of emphysema severity and distribution.
Objectives: We sought to identify genes associated with CT scan distribution of emphysema in individuals without α1-antitrypsin deficiency but with severe COPD.
Methods: We evaluated baseline CT densitometry phenotypes in 282 individuals with emphysema enrolled in the Genetics Ancillary Study of the National Emphysema Treatment Trial, and used regression models to identify genetic variants associated with emphysema distribution.
Measurements and Main Results: Emphysema distribution was assessed by two methods—assessment by radiologists and by computerized density mask quantitation, using a threshold of −950 Hounsfield units. A total of 77 polymorphisms in 20 candidate genes were analyzed for association with distribution of emphysema. GSTP1, EPHX1, and MMP1 polymorphisms were associated with the densitometric, apical-predominant distribution of emphysema (p value range = 0.001–0.050). When an apical-predominant phenotype was defined by the radiologist scoring method, GSTP1 and EPHX1 single-nucleotide polymorphisms were found to be significantly associated. In a case–control analysis of COPD susceptibility limited to cases with densitometric upper-lobe–predominant cases, the EPHX1 His139Arg single-nucleotide polymorphism was associated with COPD (p = 0.005).
Conclusions: Apical and basal emphysematous destruction appears to be influenced by different genes. Polymorphisms in the xenobiotic enzymes, GSTP1 and EPHX1, are associated with apical-predominant emphysema. Altered detoxification of cigarette smoke metabolites may contribute to emphysema distribution, and these findings may lead to further insight into genetic determinants of emphysema.
PMCID: PMC2049064  PMID: 17363767
COPD; genetics; association analysis; computed tomography; emphysema
3.  Genome-wide Association Study Identifies BICD1 as a Susceptibility Gene for Emphysema 
Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), characterized by airflow limitation, is a disorder with high phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity. Pulmonary emphysema is a major but variable component of COPD; familial data suggest that different components of COPD, such as emphysema, may be influenced by specific genetic factors.
Objectives: To identify genetic determinants of emphysema assessed through high-resolution chest computed tomography in individuals with COPD.
Methods: We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of emphysema determined from chest computed tomography scans with a total of 2,380 individuals with COPD in three independent cohorts of white individuals from (1) a cohort from Bergen, Norway, (2) the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints (ECLIPSE) Study, and (3) the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT). We tested single-nucleotide polymorphism associations with the presence or absence of emphysema determined by radiologist assessment in two of the three cohorts and a quantitative emphysema trait (percentage of lung voxels less than –950 Hounsfield units) in all three cohorts.
Measurements and Main Results: We identified association of a single-nucleotide polymorphism in BICD1 with the presence or absence of emphysema (P = 5.2 × 10−7 with at least mild emphysema vs. control subjects; P = 4.8 × 10−8 with moderate and more severe emphysema vs. control subjects).
Conclusions: Our study suggests that genetic variants in BICD1 are associated with qualitative emphysema in COPD. Variants in BICD1 are associated with length of telomeres, which suggests that a mechanism linked to accelerated aging may be involved in the pathogenesis of emphysema.
Clinical trial registered with (NCT00292552).
PMCID: PMC3040393  PMID: 20709820
emphysema; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; BICD1; single-nucleotide polymorphism
4.  Association of COPD candidate genes with CT emphysema and airway phenotypes in severe COPD 
The principal determining factors influencing the development of the airway disease and emphysema components of COPD have not been clearly defined. Genetic variability in COPD patients might influence the varying degrees of involvement of airway disease and emphysema. Therefore, we investigated genetic association of SNPs in COPD candidate genes for association with emphysema severity and airway wall thickness phenotypes.
Polymorphisms in six candidate genes were analyzed in 379 subjects of the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) Genetics Ancillary Study with quantitative chest CT data. Genetic association with percent of lung below −950 hounsfield units (LAA950), airway wall thickness (WT), and derived square root wall area of 10 mm internal perimeter airways (SRWA) were investigated.
Three SNPs in EPHX1, five SNPs in SERPINE2, and one SNP in GSTP1 were significantly associated with LAA950. Five SNPs in TGFB1, two SNPs in EPHX1, one SNP in SERPINE2, and two SNPs in ADRB2 were associated with airway wall phenotypes in NETT.
In conclusion, several COPD candidate genes showed evidence for association with airway wall thickness and emphysema severity using CT in a severe COPD population. Further investigation will be required to replicate these genetic associations for emphysema and airway wall phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3074301  PMID: 20525719
Airway; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; computed tomography; emphysema; genetic association
5.  Integrative Analysis of DNA Methylation and Gene Expression Data Identifies EPAS1 as a Key Regulator of COPD 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(1):e1004898.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a complex disease. Genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors are known to contribute to COPD risk and disease progression. Therefore we developed a systematic approach to identify key regulators of COPD that integrates genome-wide DNA methylation, gene expression, and phenotype data in lung tissue from COPD and control samples. Our integrative analysis identified 126 key regulators of COPD. We identified EPAS1 as the only key regulator whose downstream genes significantly overlapped with multiple genes sets associated with COPD disease severity. EPAS1 is distinct in comparison with other key regulators in terms of methylation profile and downstream target genes. Genes predicted to be regulated by EPAS1 were enriched for biological processes including signaling, cell communications, and system development. We confirmed that EPAS1 protein levels are lower in human COPD lung tissue compared to non-disease controls and that Epas1 gene expression is reduced in mice chronically exposed to cigarette smoke. As EPAS1 downstream genes were significantly enriched for hypoxia responsive genes in endothelial cells, we tested EPAS1 function in human endothelial cells. EPAS1 knockdown by siRNA in endothelial cells impacted genes that significantly overlapped with EPAS1 downstream genes in lung tissue including hypoxia responsive genes, and genes associated with emphysema severity. Our first integrative analysis of genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression profiles illustrates that not only does DNA methylation play a ‘causal’ role in the molecular pathophysiology of COPD, but it can be leveraged to directly identify novel key mediators of this pathophysiology.
Author Summary
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common lung disease. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the world and is expected to be the third by 2020. COPD is a heterogeneous and complex disease consisting of obstruction in the small airways, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. COPD is generally caused by exposure to noxious particles or gases, most commonly from cigarette smoking. However, only 20–25% of smokers develop clinically significant airflow obstruction. Smoking is known to cause epigenetic changes in lung tissues. Thus, genetics, epigenetic, and their interaction with environmental factors play an important role in COPD pathogenesis and progression. Currently, there are no therapeutics that can reverse COPD progression. In order to identify new targets that may lead to the development of therapeutics for curing COPD, we developed a systematic approach to identify key regulators of COPD that integrates genome-wide DNA methylation, gene expression, and phenotype data in lung tissue from COPD and control samples. Our integrative analysis identified 126 key regulators of COPD. We identified EPAS1 as the only key regulator whose downstream genes significantly overlapped with multiple genes sets associated with COPD disease severity.
PMCID: PMC4287352  PMID: 25569234
6.  Non-emphysematous chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is associated with diabetes mellitus 
BMC Pulmonary Medicine  2014;14(1):164.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been classically divided into blue bloaters and pink puffers. The utility of these clinical subtypes is unclear. However, the broader distinction between airway-predominant and emphysema-predominant COPD may be clinically relevant. The objective was to define clinical features of emphysema-predominant and non-emphysematous COPD patients.
Current and former smokers from the Genetic Epidemiology of COPD Study (COPDGene) had chest computed tomography (CT) scans with quantitative image analysis. Emphysema-predominant COPD was defined by low attenuation area at -950 Hounsfield Units (LAA-950) ≥10%. Non-emphysematous COPD was defined by airflow obstruction with minimal to no emphysema (LAA-950 < 5%).
Out of 4197 COPD subjects, 1687 were classified as emphysema-predominant and 1817 as non-emphysematous; 693 had LAA-950 between 5–10% and were not categorized. Subjects with emphysema-predominant COPD were older (65.6 vs 60.6 years, p < 0.0001) with more severe COPD based on airflow obstruction (FEV1 44.5 vs 68.4%, p < 0.0001), greater exercise limitation (6-minute walk distance 1138 vs 1331 ft, p < 0.0001) and reduced quality of life (St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire score 43 vs 31, p < 0.0001). Self-reported diabetes was more frequent in non-emphysematous COPD (OR 2.13, p < 0.001), which was also confirmed using a strict definition of diabetes based on medication use. The association between diabetes and non-emphysematous COPD was replicated in the ECLIPSE study.
Non-emphysematous COPD, defined by airflow obstruction with a paucity of emphysema on chest CT scan, is associated with an increased risk of diabetes. COPD patients without emphysema may warrant closer monitoring for diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia and vice versa.
Trial registration identifiers: COPDGene NCT00608764, ECLIPSE NCT00292552.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2466-14-164) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4216374  PMID: 25341556
Airway disease; CT scan; Diabetes mellitus; Emphysema; Spirometry
7.  A Genome-Wide Association Study in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Identification of Two Major Susceptibility Loci 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(3):e1000421.
There is considerable variability in the susceptibility of smokers to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The only known genetic risk factor is severe deficiency of α1-antitrypsin, which is present in 1–2% of individuals with COPD. We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in a homogenous case-control cohort from Bergen, Norway (823 COPD cases and 810 smoking controls) and evaluated the top 100 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the family-based International COPD Genetics Network (ICGN; 1891 Caucasian individuals from 606 pedigrees) study. The polymorphisms that showed replication were further evaluated in 389 subjects from the US National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) and 472 controls from the Normative Aging Study (NAS) and then in a fourth cohort of 949 individuals from 127 extended pedigrees from the Boston Early-Onset COPD population. Logistic regression models with adjustments of covariates were used to analyze the case-control populations. Family-based association analyses were conducted for a diagnosis of COPD and lung function in the family populations. Two SNPs at the α-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (CHRNA 3/5) locus were identified in the genome-wide association study. They showed unambiguous replication in the ICGN family-based analysis and in the NETT case-control analysis with combined p-values of 1.48×10−10, (rs8034191) and 5.74×10−10 (rs1051730). Furthermore, these SNPs were significantly associated with lung function in both the ICGN and Boston Early-Onset COPD populations. The C allele of the rs8034191 SNP was estimated to have a population attributable risk for COPD of 12.2%. The association of hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP) locus on chromosome 4 was also consistently replicated, but did not reach genome-wide significance levels. Genome-wide significant association of the HHIP locus with lung function was identified in the Framingham Heart study (Wilk et al., companion article in this issue of PLoS Genetics; doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000429). The CHRNA 3/5 and the HHIP loci make a significant contribution to the risk of COPD. CHRNA3/5 is the same locus that has been implicated in the risk of lung cancer.
Author Summary
There is considerable variability in the susceptibility of smokers to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a heritable multi-factorial trait. Identifying the genetic determinants of COPD risk will have tremendous public health importance. This study describes the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) in COPD. We conducted a GWAS in a homogenous case-control cohort from Norway and evaluated the top 100 single nucleotide polymorphisms in the family-based International COPD Genetics Network. The polymorphisms that showed replication were further evaluated in subjects from the US National Emphysema Treatment Trial and controls from the Normative Aging Study and then in a fourth cohort of extended pedigrees from the Boston Early-Onset COPD population. Two polymorphisms in the α-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor 3/5 locus on chromosome 15 showed unambiguous evidence of association with COPD. This locus has previously been implicated in both smoking behavior and risk of lung cancer, suggesting the possibility of multiple functional polymorphisms in the region or a single polymorphism with wide phenotypic consequences. The hedgehog interacting protein (HHIP) locus on chromosome 4, which is associated with COPD, is also a significant risk locus for COPD.
PMCID: PMC2650282  PMID: 19300482
COPD  2010;7(4):262-268.
Superoxide dismutase-3 (SOD3) is a major extracellular antioxidant enzyme, and previous studies have indicated a possible role of this gene in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We hypothesized that polymorphisms in the SOD3 gene would be associated with COPD and COPD-related phenotypes.
We genotyped three SOD3 polymorphisms (rs8192287 (E1), rs8192288 (I1) and rs1799895 (R213G)) in a case-control cohort, with severe COPD cases from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT, n=389) and smoking controls from the Normative Aging Study (NAS, n=472). We examined whether the SNPs were associated with COPD status, lung function variables, and quantitative CT measurements of emphysema and airway wall thickness. Further, we tried to replicate our initial findings in two family-based studies, the International COPD Genetics Network (ICGN, n=3061) and the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study (EOCOPD, n=949).
In NETT COPD cases, the minor alleles of SNPs E1 and I1 were associated with a higher percentage of emphysema (%LAA950) on chest CT scan (p=0.029 and p=0.0058). The association with E1 was replicated in the ICGN family study, where the minor allele was associated with more emphysema (p=0.048). Airway wall thickness was positively associated with the E1 SNP in ICGN; however, this finding was not confirmed in NETT. Quantitative CT data were not available in EOCOPD. The SNPs were not associated with lung function variables or COPD status in any of the populations.
In conclusion, polymorphisms in the SOD3 gene were associated with CT emphysema but not COPD susceptibility, highlighting the importance of phenotype definition in COPD genetics studies.
PMCID: PMC2923920  PMID: 20673035
9.  Genetic Epidemiology of COPD (COPDGene) Study Design 
COPD  2010;7(1):32-43.
COPDGeneis a multicenter observational study designed to identify genetic factors associated with COPD. It will also characterize chest CT phenotypes in COPD subjects, including assessment of emphysema, gas trapping, and airway wall thickening. Finally, subtypes of COPD based on these phenotypes will be used in a comprehensive genome-wide study to identify COPD susceptibility genes.
COPDGene will enroll 10,000 smokers with and without COPD across the GOLD stages. Both Non-Hispanic white and African-American subjects are included in the cohort. Inspiratory and expiratory chest CT scans will be obtained on all participants. In addition to the cross-sectional enrollment process, these subjects will be followed regularly for longitudinal studies. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) will be done on an initial group of 4000 subjects to identify genetic variants associated with case-control status and several quantitative phenotypes related to COPD. The initial findings will be verified in an additional 2000 COPD cases and 2000 smoking control subjects, and further validation association studies will be carried out.
COPDGene will provide important new information about genetic factors in COPD, and will characterize the disease process using high resolution CT scans. Understanding genetic factors and CT phenotypes that define COPD will potentially permit earlier diagnosis of this disease and may lead to the development of treatments to modify progression.
PMCID: PMC2924193  PMID: 20214461
10.  miR-638 regulates gene expression networks associated with emphysematous lung destruction 
Genome Medicine  2013;5(12):114.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous disease characterized by varying degrees of emphysematous lung destruction and small airway disease, each with distinct effects on clinical outcomes. There is little known about how microRNAs contribute specifically to the emphysema phenotype. We examined how genome-wide microRNA expression is altered with regional emphysema severity and how these microRNAs regulate disease-associated gene expression networks.
We profiled microRNAs in different regions of the lung with varying degrees of emphysema from 6 smokers with COPD and 2 controls (8 regions × 8 lungs = 64 samples). Regional emphysema severity was quantified by mean linear intercept. Whole genome microRNA and gene expression data were integrated in the same samples to build co-expression networks. Candidate microRNAs were perturbed in human lung fibroblasts in order to validate these networks.
The expression levels of 63 microRNAs (P < 0.05) were altered with regional emphysema. A subset, including miR-638, miR-30c, and miR-181d, had expression levels that were associated with those of their predicted mRNA targets. Genes correlated with these microRNAs were enriched in pathways associated with emphysema pathophysiology (for example, oxidative stress and accelerated aging). Inhibition of miR-638 expression in lung fibroblasts led to modulation of these same emphysema-related pathways. Gene targets of miR-638 in these pathways were amongst those negatively correlated with miR-638 expression in emphysema.
Our findings demonstrate that microRNAs are altered with regional emphysema severity and modulate disease-associated gene expression networks. Furthermore, miR-638 may regulate gene expression pathways related to the oxidative stress response and aging in emphysematous lung tissue and lung fibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC3971345  PMID: 24380442
11.  SERPINE2 haplotype as a risk factor for panlobular type of emphysema 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:157.
SERPINE2 (serpin peptidase inhibitor, clade E, member 2) has previously been identified as a positional candidate gene for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and has subsequently been associated to COPD and emphysema in several populations. We aimed to further examine the role of SERPINE2 polymorphisms in the development of pulmonary emphysema and different emphysema subtypes.
Four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in SERPINE2 were analyzed from 951 clinically and radiologically examined Finnish construction workers. The genotype and haplotype data was compared to different emphysematous signs confirmed with high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT), forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), diffusing capacity (DLCO), and specific diffusing capacity (DLCO/VA).
Three of the studied SERPINE2 SNPs (rs729631, rs975278, and rs6748795) were found to be in tight linkage disequilibrium. Therefore, only one of these SNPs (rs729631) was included in the subsequent analyses, in addition to the rs840088 SNP which was in moderate linkage with the other three studied SNPs. The rs729631 SNP showed a significant association with panlobular emphysema (p = 0.003). In further analysis, the variant allele of the rs729631 SNP was found to pose over two-fold risk (OR 2.22, 95% CI 1.05-4.72) for overall panlobular changes and over four-fold risk (OR 4.37, 95% CI 1.61-11.86) for pathological panlobular changes. A haplotype consisting of variant alleles of both rs729631 and rs840088 SNPs was found to pose an almost four-fold risk for overall panlobular (OR 3.72, 95% CI 1.56-8.90) and subnormal (OR 3.98, 95% CI 1.55-10.20) emphysema.
Our results support the previously found association between SERPINE2 polymorphisms and pulmonary emphysema. As a novel finding, our study suggests that the SERPINE2 gene may in particular be involved in the development of panlobular changes, i.e., the same type of changes that are involved in alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT) -deficiency.
PMCID: PMC3269992  PMID: 22145704
12.  Heritability of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Related Phenotypes in Smokers 
Rationale: Previous studies of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have suggested that genetic factors play an important role in the development of disease. However, single-nucleotide polymorphisms that are associated with COPD in genome-wide association studies have been shown to account for only a small percentage of the genetic variance in phenotypes of COPD, such as spirometry and imaging variables. These phenotypes are highly predictive of disease, and family studies have shown that spirometric phenotypes are heritable.
Objectives: To assess the heritability and coheritability of four major COPD-related phenotypes (measurements of FEV1, FEV1/FVC, percent emphysema, and percent gas trapping), and COPD affection status in smokers of non-Hispanic white and African American descent using a population design.
Methods: Single-nucleotide polymorphisms from genome-wide association studies chips were used to calculate the relatedness of pairs of individuals and a mixed model was adopted to estimate genetic variance and covariance.
Measurements and Main Results: In the non-Hispanic whites, estimated heritabilities of FEV1 and FEV1/FVC were both about 37%, consistent with estimates in the literature from family-based studies. For chest computed tomography scan phenotypes, estimated heritabilities were both close to 25%. Heritability of COPD affection status was estimated as 37.7% in both populations.
Conclusions: This study suggests that a large portion of the genetic risk of COPD is yet to be discovered and gives rationale for additional genetic studies of COPD. The estimates of coheritability (genetic covariance) for pairs of the phenotypes suggest considerable overlap of causal genetic loci.
PMCID: PMC3826281  PMID: 23972146
missing heritability; pleiotropy; pulmonary function; imaging phenotypes; chromosomal partition
13.  Association between markers of emphysema and more severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Thorax  2006;61(12):1037-1042.
The predominant emphysema phenotype is associated with more severe airflow limitation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A study was undertaken to investigate whether COPD patients, with or without emphysema quantitatively confirmed by high resolution computed tomography (HRCT), have different COPD severity as assessed by the BODE index (body mass index, airflow obstruction, dyspnoea, exercise performance) and inspiratory capacity to total lung capacity ratio (IC/TLC), and by different biological markers of lung parenchymal destruction.
Twenty six outpatients with COPD and eight healthy non‐smokers were examined. Each subject underwent HRCT scanning, pulmonary function tests, cell counts, and measurements of neutrophil elastase, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)‐9 and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)‐1 in induced sputum, as well as measurement of desmosine, a marker of elastin degradation in urine, plasma and sputum.
Patients with HRCT confirmed emphysema had a higher BODE index and lower IC/TLC ratio than subjects without HRCT confirmed emphysema and controls. Forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), FEV1/forced vital capacity ratio, and carbon monoxide transfer coefficient were lower, whereas the number of eosinophils, MMP‐9, and the MMP‐9/TIMP‐1 ratio in sputum were higher in patients with emphysema. In COPD patients the number of sputum eosinophils was the biological variable that correlated positively with the HRCT score of emphysema (p = 0.04).
These results suggest that COPD associated with HRCT confirmed emphysema is characterised by more severe lung function impairment, more intense airway inflammation and, possibly, more serious systemic dysfunction than COPD not associated with HRCT confirmed emphysema.
PMCID: PMC2117071  PMID: 16769715
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; biological markers; outcomes
14.  Loci Identified by Genome-wide Association Studies Influence Different Disease-related Phenotypes in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Genome-wide association studies have shown significant associations between variants near hedgehog interacting protein HHIP, FAM13A, and cholinergic nicotinic acetylcholine receptor CHRNA3/5 with increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in smokers; however, the disease mechanisms behind these associations are not well understood.
Objectives: To identify the association between replicated loci and COPD-related phenotypes in well-characterized patient populations.
Methods: The relationship between these three loci and COPD-related phenotypes was assessed in the Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate End-point (ECLIPSE) cohort. The results were validated in the family-based International COPD Genetics Network (ICGN).
Measurements and Main Results: The CHRNA3/5 locus was significantly associated with pack-years of smoking (P = 0.002 and 3 × 10−4), emphysema assessed by a radiologist using high-resolution computed tomography (P = 2 × 10−4 and 4.8 × 10−5), and airflow obstruction (P = 0.004 and 1.8 × 10−5) in the ECLIPSE and ICGN populations, respectively. However, variants in the IREB2 gene were only significantly associated with FEV1. The HHIP locus was not associated with smoking intensity but was associated with FEV1/FVC (P = 1.9 × 10−4 and 0.004 in the ECLIPSE and ICGN populations). The HHIP locus was also associated with fat-free body mass (P = 0.007) and with both retrospectively (P = 0.015) and prospectively (P = 0.024) collected COPD exacerbations in the ECLIPSE cohort. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the FAM13A locus were associated with lung function.
Conclusions: The CHRNA3/5 locus was associated with increased smoking intensity and emphysema in individuals with COPD, whereas the HHIP and FAM13A loci were not associated with smoking intensity. The HHIP locus was associated with the systemic components of COPD and with the frequency of COPD exacerbations. FAM13A locus was associated with lung function.
PMCID: PMC3029936  PMID: 20656943
COPD exacerbations; nicotine addiction; high-resolution CT; genetic association analysis; emphysema
15.  Characterisation of phenotypes based on severity of emphysema in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 
Thorax  2007;62(11):932-937.
Airflow limitation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is caused by a mixture of small airway disease and emphysema, the relative contributions of which may vary among patients. Phenotypes of COPD classified purely based on severity of emphysema are not well defined and may be different from the classic phenotypes of “pink puffers” and “blue bloaters”.
To characterise clinical phenotypes based on severity of emphysema, 274 subjects with COPD were recruited, excluding those with physician‐diagnosed bronchial asthma. For all subjects a detailed interview of disease history and symptoms, quality of life (QOL) measurement, blood sampling, pulmonary function tests before and after inhalation of salbutamol (0.4 mg) and high‐resolution CT scanning were performed.
Severity of emphysema visually evaluated varied widely even among subjects with the same stage of disease. No significant differences were noted among three groups of subjects classified by severity of emphysema in age, smoking history, chronic bronchitis symptoms, blood eosinophil count, serum IgE level or bronchodilator response. However, subjects with severe emphysema had significantly lower body mass index (BMI) and poorer QOL scores, evaluated using St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ), than those with no/mild emphysema (mean (SD) BMI 21.2 (0.5) vs 23.5 (0.3) kg/m2, respectively; SGRQ total score 40 (3) vs 28 (2), respectively; p<0.001 for both). These characteristics held true even if subjects with the same degree of airflow limitation were chosen.
The severity of emphysema varies widely even in patients with the same stage of COPD, and chronic bronchitis symptoms are equally distributed irrespective of emphysema severity. Patients with the phenotype in which emphysema predominates have lower BMI and poorer health‐related QOL.
PMCID: PMC2117136  PMID: 17573447
16.  Genetic association analysis of COPD candidate genes with bronchodilator responsiveness 
Respiratory medicine  2008;103(4):552-557.
Airflow limitation in COPD patients is not fully reversible. However, there may be large variability in bronchodilator responsiveness (BDR) among COPD patients, and familial aggregation of BDR suggests a genetic component. Therefore we investigated the association between six candidate genes and BDR in subjects with severe COPD. A total of 389 subjects from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) were analyzed. Bronchodilator responsiveness to albuterol was expressed in three ways: absolute change in FEV1, change in FEV1 as a percent of baseline FEV1, and change in FEV1 as a percent of predicted FEV1. Genotyping was completed for 122 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in six candidate genes (EPHX1, SFTPB, TGFB1, SERPINE2, GSTP1, ADRB2). Associations between BDR phenotypes and SNP genotypes were tested using linear regression, adjusting for age, sex, pack-years of smoking, and height. Genes associated with BDR phenotypes in the NETT subjects were assessed for replication in 127 pedigrees from the Boston Early-Onset COPD (EOCOPD) Study. Three SNPs in EPHX1 (p = 0.009 – 0.04), three SNPs in SERPINE2 (p = 0.004 – 0.05) and two SNPs in ADRB2 (0.04 – 0.05) were significantly associated with BDR phenotypes in NETT subjects. BDR. One SNP in EPHX1 (rs1009668, p = 0.04) was significantly replicated in EOCOPD subjects. SNPs in SFTPB, TGFB1, and GSTP1 genes were not associated with BDR. In conclusion, a polymorphism of EPHX1 was associated with bronchodilator responsiveness phenotypes in subjects with severe COPD.
PMCID: PMC2745950  PMID: 19111454
bronchodilator responsiveness; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; genetics; association analysis
17.  Endothelial Microparticles in Mild Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Emphysema. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Study 
Rationale: Basic research implicates alveolar endothelial cell apoptosis in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. However, information on endothelial microparticles (EMPs) in mild COPD and emphysema is lacking.
Objectives: We hypothesized that levels of CD31+ EMPs phenotypic for endothelial cell apoptosis would be elevated in COPD and associated with percent emphysema on computed tomography (CT). Associations with pulmonary microvascular blood flow (PMBF), diffusing capacity, and hyperinflation were also examined.
Methods: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis COPD Study recruited participants with COPD and control subjects age 50–79 years with greater than or equal to 10 pack-years without clinical cardiovascular disease. CD31+ EMPs were measured using flow cytometry in 180 participants who also underwent CTs and spirometry. CD62E+ EMPs phenotypic for endothelial cell activation were also measured. COPD was defined by standard criteria. Percent emphysema was defined as regions less than −950 Hounsfield units on full-lung scans. PMBF was assessed on gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging. Hyperinflation was defined as residual volume/total lung capacity. Linear regression was used to adjust for potential confounding factors.
Measurements and Main Results: CD31+ EMPs were elevated in COPD compared with control subjects (P = 0.03) and were notably increased in mild COPD (P = 0.03). CD31+ EMPs were positively related to percent emphysema (P = 0.045) and were inversely associated with PMBF (P = 0.047) and diffusing capacity (P = 0.01). In contrast, CD62E+ EMPs were elevated in severe COPD (P = 0.003) and hyperinflation (P = 0.001).
Conclusions: CD31+ EMPs, suggestive of endothelial cell apoptosis, were elevated in mild COPD and emphysema. In contrast, CD62E+ EMPs indicative of endothelial activation were elevated in severe COPD and hyperinflation.
PMCID: PMC3735242  PMID: 23600492
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; emphysema; antigens, CD31; endothelium; pulmonary disease
18.  Genetic Associations With Hypoxemia and Pulmonary Arterial Pressure in COPD* 
Chest  2008;135(3):737-744.
Hypoxemia, hypercarbia, and pulmonary arterial hypertension are known complications of advanced COPD. We sought to identify genetic polymorphisms associated with these traits in a population of patients with severe COPD from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT).
In 389 participants from the NETT Genetics Ancillary Study, single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped in five candidate genes previously associated with COPD susceptibility (EPHX1, SERPINE2, SFTPB, TGFB1, and GSTP1). Linear regression models were used to test for associations among these SNPs and three quantitative COPD-related traits (Pao2, Paco2, and pulmonary artery systolic pressure). Genes associated with hypoxemia were tested for replication in probands from the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study.
In the NETT Genetics Ancillary Study population, SNPs in microsomal epoxide hydrolase (EPHX1) [p = 0.01 to 0.04] and serpin peptidase inhibitor, clade E, member 2 (SERPINE2) [p = 0.04 to 0.008] were associated with hypoxemia. One SNP within surfactant protein B (SFTPB) was associated with pulmonary artery systolic pressure (p = 0.01). In probands from the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study, SNPs in EPHX1 and in SERPINE2 were associated with the requirement for supplemental oxygen.
In participants with severe COPD, SNPs in EPHX1 and SERPINE2 were associated with hypoxemia in two separate study populations, and SNPs from SFTPB were associated with pulmonary artery pressure in the NETT participants.
PMCID: PMC2906241  PMID: 19017876
case-control studies; COPD; genetics; phenotype; single-nucleotide polymorphism
19.  Cluster analysis in severe emphysema subjects using phenotype and genotype data: an exploratory investigation 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):30.
Numerous studies have demonstrated associations between genetic markers and COPD, but results have been inconsistent. One reason may be heterogeneity in disease definition. Unsupervised learning approaches may assist in understanding disease heterogeneity.
We selected 31 phenotypic variables and 12 SNPs from five candidate genes in 308 subjects in the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) Genetics Ancillary Study cohort. We used factor analysis to select a subset of phenotypic variables, and then used cluster analysis to identify subtypes of severe emphysema. We examined the phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of each cluster.
We identified six factors accounting for 75% of the shared variability among our initial phenotypic variables. We selected four phenotypic variables from these factors for cluster analysis: 1) post-bronchodilator FEV1 percent predicted, 2) percent bronchodilator responsiveness, and quantitative CT measurements of 3) apical emphysema and 4) airway wall thickness. K-means cluster analysis revealed four clusters, though separation between clusters was modest: 1) emphysema predominant, 2) bronchodilator responsive, with higher FEV1; 3) discordant, with a lower FEV1 despite less severe emphysema and lower airway wall thickness, and 4) airway predominant. Of the genotypes examined, membership in cluster 1 (emphysema-predominant) was associated with TGFB1 SNP rs1800470.
Cluster analysis may identify meaningful disease subtypes and/or groups of related phenotypic variables even in a highly selected group of severe emphysema subjects, and may be useful for genetic association studies.
PMCID: PMC2850331  PMID: 20233420
20.  Association of IREB2 and CHRNA3 polymorphisms with airflow obstruction in severe alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):16.
The development of COPD in subjects with alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency is likely to be influenced by modifier genes. Genome-wide association studies and integrative genomics approaches in COPD have demonstrated significant associations with SNPs in the chromosome 15q region that includes CHRNA3 (cholinergic nicotine receptor alpha3) and IREB2 (iron regulatory binding protein 2).
We investigated whether SNPs in the chromosome 15q region would be modifiers for lung function and COPD in AAT deficiency.
The current analysis included 378 PIZZ subjects in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study and a replication cohort of 458 subjects from the UK AAT Deficiency National Registry. Nine SNPs in LOC123688, CHRNA3 and IREB2 were selected for genotyping. FEV1 percent of predicted and FEV1/FVC ratio were analyzed as quantitative phenotypes. Family-based association analysis was performed in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study. In the replication set, general linear models were used for quantitative phenotypes and logistic regression models were used for the presence/absence of emphysema or COPD.
Three SNPs (rs2568494 in IREB2, rs8034191 in LOC123688, and rs1051730 in CHRNA3) were associated with pre-bronchodilator FEV1 percent of predicted in the AAT Genetic Modifiers Study. Two SNPs (rs2568494 and rs1051730) were associated with the post-bronchodilator FEV1 percent of predicted and pre-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio; SNP-by-gender interactions were observed. In the UK National Registry dataset, rs2568494 was significantly associated with emphysema in the male subgroup; significant SNP-by-smoking interactions were observed.
IREB2 and CHRNA3 are potential genetic modifiers of COPD phenotypes in individuals with severe AAT deficiency and may be sex-specific in their impact.
PMCID: PMC3306733  PMID: 22356581
CHRNA3; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Genetic association analysis; Genetic modifiers; IREB2
21.  A gene expression signature of emphysema-related lung destruction and its reversal by the tripeptide GHK 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(8):67.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a heterogeneous disease consisting of emphysema, small airway obstruction, and/or chronic bronchitis that results in significant loss of lung function over time.
In order to gain insights into the molecular pathways underlying progression of emphysema and explore computational strategies for identifying COPD therapeutics, we profiled gene expression in lung tissue samples obtained from regions within the same lung with varying amounts of emphysematous destruction from smokers with COPD (8 regions × 8 lungs = 64 samples). Regional emphysema severity was quantified in each tissue sample using the mean linear intercept (Lm) between alveolar walls from micro-CT scans.
We identified 127 genes whose expression levels were significantly associated with regional emphysema severity while controlling for gene expression differences between individuals. Genes increasing in expression with increasing emphysematous destruction included those involved in inflammation, such as the B-cell receptor signaling pathway, while genes decreasing in expression were enriched in tissue repair processes, including the transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) pathway, actin organization, and integrin signaling. We found concordant differential expression of these emphysema severity-associated genes in four cross-sectional studies of COPD. Using the Connectivity Map, we identified GHK as a compound that can reverse the gene-expression signature associated with emphysematous destruction and induce expression patterns consistent with TGFβ pathway activation. Treatment of human fibroblasts with GHK recapitulated TGFβ-induced gene-expression patterns, led to the organization of the actin cytoskeleton, and elevated the expression of integrin β1. Furthermore, addition of GHK or TGFβ restored collagen I contraction and remodeling by fibroblasts derived from COPD lungs compared to fibroblasts from former smokers without COPD.
These results demonstrate that gene-expression changes associated with regional emphysema severity within an individual's lung can provide insights into emphysema pathogenesis and identify novel therapeutic opportunities for this deadly disease. They also suggest the need for additional studies to examine the mechanisms by which TGFβ and GHK each reverse the gene-expression signature of emphysematous destruction and the effects of this reversal on disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4064320  PMID: 22937864
22.  The association of plasma biomarkers with computed tomography-assessed emphysema phenotypes 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):127.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a phenotypically heterogeneous disease. In COPD, the presence of emphysema is associated with increased mortality and risk of lung cancer. High resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scans are useful in quantifying emphysema but are associated with radiation exposure and high incidence of false positive findings (i.e., nodules). Using a comprehensive biomarker panel, we sought to determine if there was a peripheral blood biomarker signature of emphysema.
114 plasma biomarkers were measured using a custom assay in 588 individuals enrolled in the COPDGene study. Quantitative emphysema measurements included percent low lung attenuation (%LAA) ≤ −950 HU, ≤ − 910 HU and mean lung attenuation at the 15th percentile on lung attenuation curve (LP15A). Multiple regression analysis was performed to determine plasma biomarkers associated with emphysema independent of covariates age, gender, smoking status, body mass index and FEV1. The findings were subsequently validated using baseline blood samples from a separate cohort of 388 subjects enrolled in the Treatment of Emphysema with a Selective Retinoid Agonist (TESRA) study.
Regression analysis identified multiple biomarkers associated with CT-assessed emphysema in COPDGene, including advanced glycosylation end-products receptor (AGER or RAGE, p < 0.001), intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM, p < 0.001), and chemokine ligand 20 (CCL20, p < 0.001). Validation in the TESRA cohort revealed significant associations with RAGE, ICAM1, and CCL20 with radiologic emphysema (p < 0.001 after meta-analysis). Other biomarkers that were associated with emphysema include CDH1, CDH 13 and SERPINA7, but were not available for validation in the TESRA study. Receiver operating characteristics analysis demonstrated a benefit of adding a biomarker panel to clinical covariates for detecting emphysema, especially in those without severe airflow limitation (AUC 0.85).
Our findings, suggest that a panel of blood biomarkers including sRAGE, ICAM1 and CCL20 may serve as a useful surrogate measure of emphysema, and when combined with clinical covariates, may be useful clinically in predicting the presence of emphysema compared to just using covariates alone, especially in those with less severe COPD. Ultimately biomarkers may shed light on disease pathogenesis, providing targets for new treatments.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12931-014-0127-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4198701  PMID: 25306249
COPD; Biomarkers; RAGE; ICAM1; CCL20; Emphysema
23.  Genetic Association Analysis of Functional Impairment in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
Rationale: Patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may have varying levels of disability despite similar levels of lung function. This variation may reflect different COPD subtypes, which may have different genetic predispositions.
Objectives: To identify genetic associations for COPD-related phenotypes, including measures of exercise capacity, pulmonary function, and respiratory symptoms.
Methods: In 304 subjects from the National Emphysema Treatment Trial, we genotyped 80 markers in 22 positional and/or biologically plausible candidate genes. Regression models were used to test for association, using a test–replication approach to guard against false-positive results. For significant associations, effect estimates were recalculated using the entire cohort. Positive associations with dyspnea were confirmed in families from the Boston Early-Onset COPD Study.
Results: The test–replication approach identified four genes—microsomal epoxide hydrolase (EPHX1), latent transforming growth factor-β binding protein-4 (LTBP4), surfactant protein B (SFTPB), and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFB1)—that were associated with COPD-related phenotypes. In all subjects, single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in EPHX1 (p ⩽ 0.03) and in LTBP4 (p ⩽ 0.03) were associated with maximal output on cardiopulmonary exercise testing. Markers in LTBP4 (p ⩽ 0.05) and SFTPB (p = 0.005) were associated with 6-min walk test distance. SNPs in EPHX1 were associated with carbon monoxide diffusing capacity (p ⩽ 0.04). Three SNPs in TGFB1 were associated with dyspnea (p ⩽ 0.002), one of which replicated in the family study (p = 0.02).
Conclusions: Polymorphisms in several genes seem to be associated with COPD-related traits other than FEV1. These associations may identify genes in pathways important for COPD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2662917  PMID: 16456143
dyspnea; emphysema; exercise tolerance; genetic association; pulmonary function tests
24.  Genes and COPD 
The marked variability in individual susceptibility to the detrimental effects of smoking on lung function and findings suggest a significant genetic contribution to COPD, which has been demonstrated in several studies. The only known genetic risk factor for COPD, severe alpha 1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, explains only 1–2% of cases of this disease. Screening for severe AAT should be conducted in all cases of COPD. Intravenous augmentation therapy should be combined with currently recommended treatment modalities for COPD when treating patients with COPD due to severe AAT deficiency. There is considerable interest in identifying susceptibility genes for COPD unrelated to severe AAT deficiency, as this could greatly enhance current efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat this disease by yielding novel insights into its pathogenesis. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of COPD and its intermediate phenotypes (e.g., lung function measures) have identified novel susceptibility loci for COPD. Some of these susceptibility loci may also influence lung function in the general population (e.g., HHIP and FAM13A), while others may affect not only COPD but other diseases related to smoking behavior (e.g., CHRNA3/CHRNA5). Although much work remains to be done, recent advances and the implementation of novel approaches to study COPD genetics (e.g., sequencing) and epigenetics are promising, and could have a profound impact on COPD management.
PMCID: PMC3399759  PMID: 22793939
COPD; genetics; alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency
25.  Polymorphic Variation in Surfactant Protein B is Associated with COPD Exacerbations 
COPD exacerbations reduce quality of life and increase mortality. Genetic variation may explain the substantial variability seen in exacerbation frequency among COPD subjects with similar lung function. We analyzed whether polymorphisms in five candidate genes previously associated with COPD susceptibility also demonstrate association with COPD exacerbations.
Eighty-eight single nucleotide polymorphisms in microsomal epoxide hydrolase (EPHX1), transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFB1), SERPINE2, glutathione S-transferase pi (GSTP1), and surfactant protein B (SFTPB) were genotyped in 389 non-Hispanic white participants in the National Emphysema Treatment Trial. Exacerbations were defined as COPD-related emergency room visits or hospitalizations using Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services claims data.
Measurements and Main Results
216 subjects (56%) experienced one or more exacerbations during the study period. An SFTPB promoter polymorphism, rs3024791, was associated with COPD exacerbations (p=0.008). Logistic regression models confirmed the association with rs3024791 (p = 0.007). Poisson regression models demonstrated association of multiple SFTPB SNPs with exacerbation rates: rs2118177 (p = 0.006), rs2304566 (p = 0.002), rs1130866 (p = 0.04), and rs3024791 (p = 0.002). Polymorphisms in EPHX1, GSTP1, TGFB1, and SERPINE2 did not demonstrate association with COPD exacerbations.
Variants in SFTPB are associated with COPD susceptibility and COPD exacerbation frequency.
PMCID: PMC2761762  PMID: 18550614
association analysis; COPD; exacerbations; genetics; surfactant protein B; single nucleotide polymorphisms

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